GP mythbuster 52: Portable appliance testing and calibrating medical equipment

Page last updated: 23 December 2022
Organisations we regulate

We have had some queries about the responsibilities of GP practices to protect staff and patients from risks with:

  • using portable electrical appliances
  • calibrating medical equipment.

Portable appliance testing (PAT)

We expect GP practices to show that they have carried out risk assessments.  Providers should identify all risks associated with your premises and show how these risks are being managed.

What does the law say?

GP practices must maintain electrical equipment if it can cause danger. The law does not say how this must be done or how often. Providers should decide what level of maintenance is needed according to the risk of an item becoming faulty, and how equipment is made.

All landlords, employers and self-employed individuals must make sure that their portable electrical appliances are:

  • safe
  • suitable
  • used for the purposes intended.

Appliances should always be maintained properly and be in good working order.

GP practices should consider the increased risk if the equipment:

  • isn’t used correctly
  • isn’t suitable for the job
  • is used in a harsh environment
  • is not double insulated. Some kettles are earthed but some hand-held equipment is usually double insulated.

GP practices are responsible for safely maintaining:

  • any electrical equipment employees use at work, if it is their own or supplied by the provider.
  • jointly, any equipment used by employees leased or provided by a contractor. For example, a photocopier.

GP practices should clearly demonstrate responsibilities and lines of accountability for testing and maintenance of equipment t in shared buildings or those owned by a landlord.

GP practices are not responsible for equipment both provided and used by a contractor. Providers will need to risk assess any situation where this occurs.

GP practices need to check if any maintenance is required. How this is done depends on the type of equipment. If a risk is identified, action will need to be taken to prevent or control that risk.

Further information

Calibration of Medical Equipment

What does the law say?

Regulation 12: safe care and treatment

2 (e) ensuring that the equipment used by the service provider for providing care or treatment to a service user is safe for such use and is used in a safe way.

(f) where equipment or medicines are supplied by the service provider, ensuring that there are sufficient quantities of these to ensure the safety of service users and to meet their needs.

The World Health Organisation defines medical equipment as:

Medical devices requiring calibration, maintenance, repair, user training and decommissioning – activities usually managed by clinical engineers. Medical equipment is used for the specific purposes of diagnosis and treatment of disease or rehabilitation following disease or injury.

Some of the medical equipment that may be found in GP practices include:

  • auroscopes/otoscopes
  • blood glucose monitors
  • blood pressure monitors/24 Hour ABPMs
  • cholesterol testers
  • class III medical scales/baby weigh scales
  • height measures
  • smokerlyzers/breath carbon monoxide (CO) monitors
  • spirometers
  • thermometers
  • vaccine refrigerators
  • defibrillators
  • pulse oximeters
  • ECGs/24 Hour Ambulatory ECG
  • ear irrigation system
  • couches (hydraulic/electric)

Manufacturer’s instructions may specify particular testing, calibration or adjustment before a medical device is used for the first time. They will also normally include the recommended intervals between calibrations.

This may include where appropriate, using a test device to check:

  • accuracy of physiological measurements
  • accuracy of other outputs
  • dose delivery
  • energy delivery

Tests should be carried out by an adequately trained and appropriately qualified person.

Good records are important in effective device management and should provide evidence of:

  • what the device is
  • where it came from
  • its serial or batch number
  • the maintenance record of the device
  • any training carried out on how to use it properly.

Paper-based systems can be used if you have only a few devices. A computer-based system may be considered more suitable if you have a number of devices. These records will be required as evidence for inspection and/or monitoring by CQC.

When we inspect

We use these Regulations  when we review if the practice is safe, effective, responsive, caring and well-led. When we inspect the safety of premises and equipment, we look at: 

It is part of our key lines of enquiry (KLOEs). In particular: 

Further information

GP mythbusters